September 5, 2018

United Tribes Tribal Leaders Summit | Small Business Resources

I am here at the United Tribes Tribal Leaders Summit in Bismarck, ND. I'm sitting here, in our Beyond Buckskin booth, typing this post, in between meeting and greeting new and old friends. I love this particular conference because it draws leaders from this region into one space that is simultaneously big, but also intimate. It is a great chance to meet up with the people who are - to put it frankly - leaders. They are leading programs, initiatives, policies, and businesses focused on health, cultural consulting, economic development, media, education, and more.

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing my journey with Beyond Buckskin - how it started as an educational interest in the Native American fashion movement from the 1940s to the present, and how it developed into a business that has garnered both local and international recognition and support.

It wasn't easy. It continues to be a challenge. But for those of you out there who want to share your work with the world, reach new customers, bring attention to our legacy, all while creatively engaging in economic development, then I'd like to help by sharing my resources for Beyond Buckskin.

WEBSITE
First, by now, you've got to appreciate the power of the internet. With a click of the button, you can share your words and images and ideas with people in different communities and countries. Building a website can be complicated and expensive, or it can be easy and free. I chose the latter. I use Blogger for this website, though many options have popped up in recent years since I launched this site in 2009. I've heard WordPress is fantastic. I know that Wix is very simple and effective - I've built 2 websites for friends for fun because Wix is that easy to work with.

ONLINE SHOP
If you are looking to sell something, I use BigCartel for the Boutique site, but I've heard that Shopify is a great alternative for small businesses looking to expand quickly. Manitobah Mukluks, Eighth Generation, and OxDx all use Shopify. It is more expensive than BigCartel, but you get more features. You get what you pay for. I like BigCartel because it is so fricken easy to use. It was designed to cater to artists who will be selling less than 300 different products.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Next, please get your business or initiative on social media. It is free and a great way to reach new customers or partners, or to nurture a relationship of loyalty and support. Beyond Buckskin is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and YouTube. Facebook is a great way to share stories and links, Instagram is a great way to share images, Twitter is a great way to share soundbites, Pinterest is a great way to share design and style ideas, and Snapchat is a great way to share video stories of your business or project behind the scenes. Use which channels align with your project, or do what we do and use each channel to highlight a different aspect of your business. Just please don't let your social media handles get dormant - followers will notice and wonder why. We post new content at least once a week, and we try not to post more than once a day (a flurry of posting can drive followers away, actually). To help manage the social media sites, we use Hootsuite and Zapier. Hootsuite allows us to schedule our posts (which is not only great for consistency, but also to help orchestrate a product launch) and it allows us to see our posts and their likes and comments and shares. We have set up Zapier to 'zap', or post, on Pinterest and Tumblr any time we add a new product.

Here's the most important thing about social media and the internet - as Native Americans, we are the minorities of the minorities, and we are underrepresented in all fields and all facets of pop culture. Social media and the internet allow us to share content that highlights the stories that we want to tell, and how we want to tell it. Even if it is through images on Instagram, you can tell a story of strength and success. Through a simple hashtag, we can flood a stream with powerful representations of our people. It's exciting. Get excited and use social media. I can't tell you how many opportunities have come my way because of our social media accounts. I was asked to represent North Dakota for the 50 States of Women cover story feature for Glamour magazine because of Instagram. I have had countless customers come to our store or booth and say "I follow you on Facebook!" I've had journalists contact me on Twitter, "We're doing a story and would love to feature your business - how can we reach you?" It is a great connector and activator. Use it.

MARKETING MATERIALS
For fliers or posters or postcards, I use Canva. Canva! They have a ton of amazing free templates, and some pretty pimp ones that are just $1. Got an event coming up? Make an invitation quickly and beautifully. I've used it to make cute signs for our shop, info cards for our products, gift certificates, fashion show ID passes, and countless posters and postcards.

Need to print those postcards out? I recommend nextdayflyers.com. They are fast, inexpensive, and the quality is great. Need labels, hang tags, or promo cards or a banner? I recommend uprinting.com. We were able to create all our branded material through them. Love them. Need jewelry boxes stamped with your logo? We use gemsondisplay.com. Gift bags? We love to use linen drawstring bags found at statelinebag.com and hand stamped, by us, with our logo. Customers fricken love them, and they end up costing just around $1 per bag, but for that lasting impact, it is so worth it!

For our retail store, Ikea has been my savior for our small storage. Everything can be organized, tucked away, and looking great. For that personal touch for our store, we have bought red willow baskets, birch bark baskets, star quilts, and paintings all by local artists. We also have black and white images of individuals from our region, found online at the North Dakota historical society website, and printed out onto card stock and framed to remind people that we come from an amazing historical legacy. Get creative! Be authentic.

MORE
Uhm let's see, what else.. oh yea! Years ago, I launched a series called "Beyond Business" to provide a space for Native designers and artists to look beyond the regular business model, and take into consideration creativity and concepts of Native community to create successful ventures. From tips and instructions on how to do your own product photography, to marketing your art, to joining the Buy Native movement, to becoming the CEO of your own life, to figuring out your wow factor - there's much to learn and discover!

What resources do you use for your small business? Include them in the comments section so we can create a great resource page for creative entrepreneurs.

I hope somewhere, something in here has been helpful to someone. We need more small businesses led by Native people. We need you!

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